Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Surprise   Leave a comment

Weather today was my favourite. Huge deluge of straight-down rain, massive drops, black almost thunderous clouds, flash floods, people running for shelter, then five minutes later a tiny patch of blue in the sky begins to spread and its raining through sunshine. The clouds disappear and it is scorching with steam rising from the vegetation making London very jungle-like. Half an hour later angry clouds and huge drops start it all over again.

It is on such a day that I resumed the Capital Ring, (after a few forays to North and South Downs when  the thought of wandering the streets of East London did not appeal).  But once again, my preconceived notions were shattered. When am I going to learn eh?

Highgate to Finsbury Park (Parkland Walk)  along a disused railway track, a long strip of mini-parkland through urban London, the trees blocking out everything. Mad graffiti. I am an old person and, other than clever stuff like Banksy, I have never had much time for it. But this was beautiful. The colours were vivid and the artwork was really stunning. I found myself gawping and turning my head sideways under the bridges and along the arches to appreciate it. I even saw a young guy working on a new piece, totally absorbed with what he was doing.

Then through Finsbury Park and onto the New River, which is neither new nor a river. An old canal dating from the early 1600s created to bring water from Hertfordshire to London, amazingly designed and still working today. Surprised at the two massive reservoirs full of wildlife (especially my favourite, mad, bad-tempered, noisy coots and their very vocal young), just at the back of Seven Sisters Road, places I never knew existed.

An area of Woodberry Down Estate that appears to be undergoing renewal had a very big and  fancy fountain with a waterfall feature and a huge silver globe.  I am happy to say a large chunk of the children of Woodberry Downs were crawling all over and in the water feature, having a whale of a time. It was like a scene from Little Rascals.

In Clissold Park there was Kurdish music festival. People of all shapes and sizes were there. Young beautiful people with flags, baggy trousers and Yasser Arafat scarves. Middle aged couples, she in her good shoes and black skirt, he with his moustache and black leather jacket, gaggles of teenage girls, young couples. Beautiful, sad, haunting music in the air. Then a massive downpour. The music stopped. I took shelter on the veranda of Clissold House and drank coffee and watched people trying hide from the rain under trees.  The small patch of blue sky got bigger, people emerged from the trees and drifted back to the festival in the late evening sunshine. Children were dancing on the pathway as the music started again. They twirled their umbrellas as they danced.

Then Abney Park cemetery. Sunlight was streaming through the trees and steam was rising from the undergrowth in the rays of sunlight.  The mucky pathways were lined with monuments to the dead, some toppling precariously, others eaten away by pollution and age.

In the middle of the cemetery I could hear haunting choral music. I assumed the old chapel must have been repaired and was being used by a choir. I struggled and slid down through the muck and puddles towards the old chapel.  There, hidden behind a van, were a group of new-age hippies, holding a dance event. They had erected some plastic awnings to keep out the rain, and a girl was performing, twisting and turning on the ground, surrounded by people in dreads and piercings. It was so bizarre, unexpected, stunning, unusual in the middle of an old cemetery. But strangely lovely. I stood and gawped again. (Did a lot of gawping today). Then trotted on with a big smile on my face to the main exit and Stoke Newington.

London, in one day, crazy weather, coots, a graffiti artist at work, a Kurdish music festival and a new-age dance event in a cemetery.


Windy day   Leave a comment

At the weekend I walked across North London to Highgate passing through estates of affluence. For some reason I can cope well with places like Richmond to which I mentally attach redeeming features like scruffy dogs and mad old people. But when it comes to North London I can’t seem to find that internal charity.  I also got lost during my  walk, so a large part of my time ‘up north’ was spent wandering around the faux olde worlde houses, muttering names of streets, turning maps upside down and peering down unfamiliar lanes.  This may have added some grist to my mill.

However after various findings and losings of path, I found myself sitting under a tree near a cafe (with some of the most expensive coffee in London) watching a very windy day blowing up a storm in the park. Overhead the metal cafe sign creaked on its hinges. The trees were dancing. No, more than dancing, they were threashing in the wind. Only their deep roots kept them in one place. It was like watching dancers chained to the ground, desperate to move. Or how a wild symphony might look in your imagination. The grass rippled in a frenzy underneath the trees.

Humans were infected too.  Hair was blowing in all directions. There was a wildness in the air that caused children and dogs to skitter around the park with the wind up their backsides. Parents became infected with their children’s skittishness and the fear of their being hit by a falling branch or something from a building, and called them back to safety.

I bravely held onto my paper coffee cup and used it to stop my useless maps from blowing away. It was completely exhilarating. I wanted it all to end in a crash of thunder and a flash of lightning followed by a huge downpour. I felt that only this would do proper justice to such a big introduction.  But like many things in life, it didn’t.  A few drops of threatening rain, a bit more blowing and that was it. But the wind tearing through the trees is still creating beautiful re-runs in my mind.

Jubilee   Leave a comment

Well it’s over.  I managed to reconcile myself to it and was surprised at the effect it had on London. All over the city strangers smiled at each other and people in silly clothes with the union jack on, danced, paraded and laughed. It was the first time I’ve ever experienced such a sense of unity in the city. It did not have the worrying associations with right-wing nationalism and extremism of St George’s Day. The unity was around something different that was sufficient to overcome race and religion.

I saw street parties in places as diverse as working-class Erith and leafy Hampstead with people saying that this was the first time they’d ever spoken to their neighbours. And after the queen, the awful weather became the other unifying force, bringing out the dogged British spirit determined to have that party and stand all day in the rain to see the flotilla.

 “I’ve decided I really love the queen” says one known for her GR vague human rightsy, lefty views.  “I did not bring my wellies”  says another on her day standing at Embankment, “but I’d taken sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil and when I’d eaten them, I put the tinfoil in my shoes to stop the rain coming in.”

Roll on the Olympics!

Confronting dark secrets and Wellington boots   Leave a comment

The drought continues. This means deluge, thunder, lightning, penetrating rain lasting all day. On Saturday it rained all day. All day. It reminds me of home. I came to the sunny South East to escape from this.

I could not face going out and having the rain seep through the fibres of my raincoat and bag, the steamed up mobile and the damp smell in the tube.

Instead I tackled the house. It has been long overdue. My enthusiasm led me to open the dreaded places I had avoided for  years and take out the bundles of paper that had built up since I moved in. I work in a paper bound world and I am a hoarder. The piles of paper have been my guilty secret for years. I felt like the awful Mr Krook in Bleak House. I had a premonition of being found dead, surrounded by reams of paper and decided to tackle it.

I piled all the paper, files and documents into a corner. They exploded and spread across the whole wall of the room. I was shocked. I spent all day Saturday ploughing through them, getting bogged down in my past, stopping for a moment to go ‘awww’ or ‘wow’ or ‘I forgot that’, feeling waves of emotion, depending on what I found.

It is now Sunday night. I’ve worked through half the wall. The other half remains, staring at me. I promise I will do it. I have to. I’ve messed them up now and they cannot be returned and I cannot hide. I’ve filled up the recycling bag for the week leaving no space for anything else.

Part of me feels invigorated. It’s been bugging me for ages and been on my ‘to-do’ list. To finally start the process and sort out my life is good.

On Sunday morning I needed to get out though. The papers were staring at me accusingly. I donned my raincoat and my Wellington boots, a relatively recent investment. Not the Hunter ones that the cool people wear, or the awful flowery, printed ones – just plain old-fashioned green wellies. I felt like a child wearing them. (They played a big role in my childhood) When I went  out I checked that nobody was looking and then jumped in a puddle and splashed! It was brilliant. I got braver then and spent most of Sunday  deliberately wading through the deepest puddles I could find, looking with contempt at those with ordinary shoes and umbrellas tiptoeing around them. The rain continued but I did not mind.

And then in the afternoon, on the street of a poor west London town, the sun suddenly came out. It was beautiful. Everything sparkled. People looked up. I could see moods change in front of me. People’s steps became visibly lighter. They smiled at each other. It was like the end of Noah’s Flood.

I felt the same. My steps became…. well, actually they couldn’t become lighter…..because of the wellies. They were so awkward and heavy, and became increasingly so. Those that I had scornfully splashed earlier, now looked at me with pity as I dragged my green monsters. And in my head I began to hear the Patrick Kavanagh poem as I trudged along, trapped by my mistaken affection for the wellies, symbolic of my childhood;

“O stony grey soil of Monaghan
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived.

You clogged the feet of my boyhood
And I believed that my stumble
Had the poise and stride of Apollo
And his voice my thick tongued mumble.”

I made my way home, extracted my feet from the sweaty monsters and swore to keep them for the snow in the future.

(The cherry and apple trees are shedding now, creating a snow of blossom and carpets of pink and white. So maybe I’m not too far off the mark.)

Drought   Leave a comment

My bus today had this dramatic poster on the side.  As I stood in the rain waiting for the driver to finish his lunch and let me on, my feet wet, my nose dripping, I began to wonder.  Is the declaration of drought part of a wider secret scheme? Is there someone at the Department of the Environment for example, this man, actively engaged in juju, and the declaration of drought is all part of a secret rainmaking ritual? Does he, when nobody is looking, in a dark and deep cavern under Mornington Crescent (thanks Robert Rankin), do this? 


And if the declaration of drought is all part of a secret ritual to appease the rain gods, good news Richard, it is working.  The gods are crying tears of joy upon us.